Editor makes false assumptions on drunk driving stats

I read with interest your editorial of Jan. 23 where you make the case that it is unfair to focus on the rate of Ponoka’s drunk driving

Dear Editor:

I read with interest your editorial of Jan. 23 where you make the case that it is unfair to focus on the rate of Ponoka’s drunk driving arrests as opposed to the volume. It is your opinion that the volume of arrest tells the true story and that it is an error to compare Ponoka’s rate with that of a community that isn’t similar in size and setting. Basically your position can be summed up as saying that the whole exercise was a waste of time and that the town and the RCMP are guilty of deliberately misleading the community as to their “true” motives. I disagree with you on both of your positions.

For the town and the RCMP to compare Ponoka’s drunk driving arrest history on the basis of rate and not volume is an accepted method of comparison that is used for researching the socio-economic realities of two or more population groups. The rate is what standardizes the expression of the issue that is being compared. As an example I would cite a recent article in an American newspaper that points out the state of Missouri, which does not have the largest population of American blacks, does have the highest black homicide rate in America, http://blogs.riverfronttimes.com/dailyrft/2013/02/missouri_black_homicide_rate.php

Now the author of this article doesn’t try to down play the issue by citing the fact the Missouri doesn’t have the highest absolute number of murdered black Afro-Americans —that honor actually goes to bigger cities like Chicago, L.A., Detroit, New York. Nor does he discount the significance of the rate by faulting the study based on the fact the communities in which the murders take place are not necessarily equivalent to each other on a socio-economic basis. The only issue at hand is the rate of murders per 100,000, which is the ultimate mathematical common denominator and point of comparison.

I likewise believe that it is wrong to focus on the absolute number of drunk drivers that are caught because I believe that it is safe to assume that for every two that are caught each week that there is at least one that was not arrested. Given that reality that would mean there are actually at least three per week for a total of 12 per month or at least 144 for the year.

The editor’s suggestion the RCMP should show their determination to stop drunk driving by setting up a check stop just outside Hobbema on Highway 2A, I will assume was obviously made tongue in cheek. After all, the editor is quite aware that such a move would definitely be seen as discriminatory. This is in contrast to Ponoka’s proposed bylaw which is aimed at all bad actors without regard to their ethnic identity and are focused on public safety. It is a shame to see the editor of the paper dedicate the paper’s resources to changing the issue and attempting to turn this into a race issue, when it isn’t.

Nor is it fair for the editor to accuse the town council of setting a moving target with regards to stating its reason for wanting to put the new bylaw in place when it is clear all of the additional reasons flow from the one problem the town has identified. If the town councillors are to be faulted for seeming to have more than one reason for implementing the bylaw then what are we to make of the editor’s position? It seems on the one hand he wants to argue against the bylaws by playing the race card and impugning the reputations of the councillors and moral character of Ponoka residents. Then on the other hand he wants to portray himself as a champion for the small businessman. Certainly if the editor can have more than one reason for his arguments he should be willing to extend the same to town council.

Is it possible that the editor is displaying his own unstated reverse racism by portraying the town councillors as a bunch of predominantly old male white bigots who are out to stick it to the natives? I am sure that he would quickly deny that such is the case and that his only interest is what is good for the town and a little social justice. Of course we won’t talk about the social justice that is missing for the victims of the alcohol-fuelled crimes and drunk driving.

I believe that for the editor to credit the full $25,000 the town spends for extra police coverage during the Ponoka Stampede to the policing of “drunken cowboys” is a prejudicial slight and a gross mischaracterization.

I will also point out some of that $25,000 is focused on preventing the activity of criminal activity on the part of gang members from the reserve. The RCMP detachment has an anti-gang unit that is operative during the whole time of the stampede. In reality, the Ponoka Stampede brings a large influx of out of town spectators whose backgrounds and intentions are completely unknown. However, it should never be forgotten many of our out of town guests are in fact native and an increased police presence is needed to address the overhaul unique risks this July long weekend event presents.

It should also be pointed out the demographic composition of the Hobbema reserve presents both the reserve and the surrounding communities with some deep profound social problems. A recent article that was written to report of the unexplained shooting death of 16-year-old teen on the Samson reserve states “more than half of the 14,000 residents are under 18 years old” (http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/edmonton/story/2013/02/02/edmonton-hobbema-homicide.html).

Now this age structure means that what we have is kids raising kids in a society where there is little to no adult supervision. Plus when you figure in that it is the younger demographic that is responsible for the majority of criminal activity and is most likely to be involved with substance abuse then you have a recipe for community failure. The editor is correct when he states that there is no moat around Hobbema and this fact means the situation for surrounding communities is even more perilous. The fact the worst of Hobbema’s gang violence has not yet spilt over into Wetaskiwin and Ponoka is more to be attributed to good policing and luck.

If we consider that the reserve is in the process of implementing an approved policy that would see the eviction of known gang members from the reserve (http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/edmonton/story/2012/01/05/hobbema-vote-yes.html), something that may solve their problem but will only serve to increase ours. The gang members who are evicted from Hobbema will have to live somewhere and you can bet they won’t go very far away from their base of operations. After all, if inmates can run their criminal activities from secure jail cells there is nothing to stop an exiled gang member from supervising his criminal activities from the open boundaries of Ponoka or Wetaskiwin.

In the end there is lot more here to be seen than just the opportunity for individual profit and bogus accusations of racial discrimination.

Julian Ross Hudson